Black Diamond Impact Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
BD takes a familiar and effective approach to foam layering for the Impact by stacking a firm 1" layer of closed-cell foam on top of a thicker 3" layer of softer foam. The thinking behind this strategy is that a firm layer will flex and collapse minimally to spread out impact force and minimize ankle-rolling, while the thicker sub-layer absorbs most of the force. This pad feels excellent on boulder problems where you remain close to the ground. At four inches thick, our tester found it easier not to dab as they might with a thicker pad, and its lightweight and small size make it easier for your friend to shuffle the pad along while you knee bar and heel hook your way up steep and fun cave problems.
For big falls over a body length, the Impact is best paired with other, larger models. A 39" x 45" pad starts to look like a postage stamp once you get higher than 6 feet off the ground, and you'll need to rely on your spotters to guide your plummeting body to the center of the pad. This pad uses a traditional taco design, and we didn't notice any weak spots at that hinge point when using it in the correct, top-side up orientation.
BD has stepped up their game in terms of crash pad durability over the years, and the latest version of the Impact employs a tough, 600-denier rip-stop nylon shell to contain its high-quality foam. One point of concern we have with durability is where the suspension attaches to the pad. The bottom of the shoulder straps are sewn directly to the shell fabric, and when the pad is loaded up with gear or becomes wet, it appears to stretch the fabric away from the pad. If there is an eventual point of failure, this is where we believe it could happen. We think that attaching the shoulder straps at the bottom of the pad like on the Metolius and Mad Rock designs is a better design strategy for long-term durability.
The suspension on this pad is excellent if all you'll carry is shoes and a chalk bag. Because it's light and small, it's easier to scramble over boulders and talus or squirm through corridors on your way to your climbing objectives. A small hook closure on the bottom of the pad prevents larger items (like shoes) from falling out. If you're trying to haul a 12-pack and a watermelon out for an all-day bouldering party, the suspension on this pads carrying system is not up to the task.
This basic model doesn't have any special mats to wipe your feet or pockets to stash your nail clipper and your boar's-hair brush, but it can hold a small backpack to keep those items contained. The buckles on the Impact do their job, holding the pad folded securely but being easy to undo when we wanted to release them. This pad has a pair of suitcase-style handles so you can easily throw all your stuff on the pad and move on to a nearby boulder without having to repack everything meticulously.
This pad is a decent value based on its durability. We feel, if properly cared for, this pad will last for many seasons. However, there are models in our test that offer similar advantages at a lower price, so the Impact is hard for us to recommend over others. It's fine for what it is, but it's not the best of its kind from a price nor performance perspective.
If you're looking for a lightweight supplemental pad, the Impact will fit the bill nicely. We used this pad in areas that required four-wheel capabilities and a bit of hike for the approach, and no tester complained while carrying or landing on this pad. Just know that you'll need some larger pads if you're going for glory on the high balls.
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